The opportunities for foreign customers to praise a good experience with an international business - or lament a bad one - are constantly growing through customer review channels.
Proprietors can strive to improve their businesses by blending feedback from online reviews customer input and industry knowledge. Here are some insights for business owners to help keep up with the buzz in the global market.
The first step is to speak directly with customers - before they trumpet their views online, says Anthony Lloyd, owner of Fallowfields in Oxfordshire, U.K., which receives about 25,000 visitors a year to its hotel, restaurant and falconry.
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Every guest is asked - in person - how the hotel could improve. It's how Lloyd learned that packages of homemade biscuits left in guest rooms were difficult to open.
"With the advent of social media, where people can go online and vent their fury, it's not only a proactive strategy, it's also a preventive strategy," he says.
Not every guest will feel comfortable voicing a customer complaint. To reach quieter guests, he sends everyone a follow-up email.
Lloyd also responds to every TripAdvisor customer review - the glowing remarks, as well as the rare customer complaint (he says there have been two, total). "Time and again in the hotel, guests say they were impressed that the owner always responded," he says.
Customers are eager to give feedback that helps business owners with targeted decisions. Icebreaker Entertainment LLC, a New York-based a multi-brand consumer products company with licensed products for sale in many major retailers, ranging from school supplies to beverage coolies, has posted two sample T-shirt designs on Facebook to see which customers prefer. "We have thousands of Facebook fans for our various brands, and we believe 99 percent of them are 'regular consumers,'" says Ted Scofield, chief operating officer and general counsel ofIcebreaker Entertainment.
But when the company needs to make bigger choices about international expansion to foreign markets, owners Ted and Christi Scofield, who is the company's president and founder, look to their licensing agents in specific countries. Agents in French- and German-speaking countries said their foreign customers would want the American versions of Icebreaker's products, which use slang terms such as "Stud Muffin," says Mr. Scofield.
However, based on agent feedback in Spanish-speaking countries, the international business creates new designs for this market. "What we end up doing is relying on the market knowledge from our partners in the countries," Mr. Scofield says.
When working overseas in foreign markets, international businesses can satisfy foreign customers by making it easier for them to purchase goods and services through the help of an online foreign exchange service, which may provide 24/7 account access and complete transparency of bank-to-bank money transfers for international payments.
Susan Green, an artist who makes hand-bound leather books, owns BOUND based in Wimborne, U.K. Green tracks customer feedback on Twitter, Facebook and her own company website.
Still, she realizes she can't please everyone with every business decision. "I think it's important not to get drawn in to controversy, to think before you tweet," she says. A repeat customer once tweeted that he didn't like BOUND's new logo. Green thought it over and felt confident about her choice.
"I figured it was great he had noticed," she says, and "was keeping up with what my business was doing and was engaged enough to comment."
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Understanding the culture of potential foreign customers is vital to making good impressions in business relationships.
Knowing the local customs and cultural differences is important for international business owners who are expanding in the global market.
It's important for small business owners to understand foreign countries' work and labor laws and start small when hiring foreign employees.
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